Fresh off launching musically-themed iOS game Nightclub Story, Redwood Shores-based TeamLava is close to shipping another female-focused game with a sartorial theme: Fashion Story.
Owned by leading RPG developer Storm8, TeamLava is devoted to casual titles that skew toward a female audience. (The other half of the company handles the more testosterone-filled RPGs.)
Fashion Story is no exception. In the game, players manage a fashion boutique and need to stock trendy items that virtual clients adore. They can dress up and customize their avatar on top of designing the layout, feel and inventory of their store. Players pick outfits to hang on their racks and earn in-game currency through sales. A familiar time-based mechanic is used when gamers order dresses or shirts to be made. It can take 24 hours to make a dress, for example. But if a player spends the paid currency, they can have the clothes immediately.
In previous reviews, we’ve critiqued TeamLava for copying the mechanics and look and feel of other casual sim titles or for reusing the same concepts over and over. But to be fair, Teamlava has outmaneuvered many would-be competitors in terms of monetization. Competitors grounded in the social gaming world have not seen the same kind of success on iOS; Booyah’s Nightclub City DJ Rivals, to which TeamLava’s Nightclub Story is very similar, peaked at #13 on the overall list before tumbling back down below #1000 while Crowdstar’s fashion-focused It Girl hasn’t cracked the top 700.
In contrast, Storm8 has four of the top 50 highest grossing iOS games between its two studios: TeamLava’s Restaurant Story and Bakery story and Storm8’s World War and iMobsters. It’s too early to tell how sticky Nightclub Story is, but it’s currently #55 on the iOS free games list.
So while TeamLava’s titles may not be the most original, the company has nailed the free-to-play model on mobile, underscoring an industrywide shift away from paid apps.
“The key is to actively support our customers with new content updates,” said Johnny Coghlan, who manages business development for the company. “We handle everything on the server side. All updates are released through there, not through downloaded updates of the game.”
By layering in its own Storm8 ID system instead of using Apple’s or Facebook’s, it can more easily control how it cross-promotes games to existing users. (It does have a Facebook integration though, which attracts a little more than 101,000 of Restaurant Story’s monthly active users.)
Storm8 also bakes in its own social features instead of relying on GameCenter or Openfeint like many other competitors do. In Nightclub Story for example, players can leave tips on other friends’ dance floors and gain experience points. By visiting other players’ boutiques in Fashion Story, you can “like” in-store items to leave them virtual gifts.
Storm8 is one of the few big mobile developers that hasn’t announced venture funding so far. With close to 50 people, the company has been bootstrapped and was co-founded by a group of Facebook alumni.